State Dept. Refuses To Provide Name Of Employee Ordered To Scrub Iran Video

REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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The State Department is refusing to release the name of the bureau of pubic affairs staffer who was allegedly ordered to scrub a portion of a Dec. 2, 2013 press briefing video about the Iran nuclear negotiations.

The Daily Caller directly asked the State Department on Thursday for the name of the employee in hopes of filing a Freedom of Information Act request in the matter.

Spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau declined to share the name.

“At this stage, we don’t have anything to add to John Kirby’s briefing yesterday. We’re happy to pass the transcript, if you don’t have it,” Trudeau said.

On Wednesday, Kirby, the agency’s top spokesman, revealed that on Dec. 2, 2013, a State Department official called a staffer in the bureau of public affairs and ordered her to excise an exchange between Fox News reporter James Rosen and Jen Psaki, the State Department’s press secretary at the time.

Rosen asked Psaki about her predecessor Victoria Nuland’s denial in 2012 that U.S. officials were negotiating with Iran on nuclear weapons. Nuland said that that was not happening. Rosen asked Psaki if Nuland or anyone else at State would ever lie about foreign policy issues. Psaki did not provide a direct answer, saying only that diplomacy sometimes requires privacy.

But after a recent New York Times profile of White House adviser Ben Rhodes revealed that negotiations between the U.S. and Iran were being held in 2012, earlier than the administration has acknowledged, Rosen asked a Fox News producer to look back at the video of that exchange. The producer was shocked to find that the question and answer had been removed and replaced with a white flash.

Trudeau said in a press briefing on May 10 that the removal of the segment was likely due to “a glitch.”

But on Wednesday, Kirby admitted that an official had called a public affairs employee to order the exchange be excised from the video.

Kirby said that the staffer could not remember the name of the official who ordered the scrubbing. He also said, much to the surprise of the reporters in the room at the daily press briefing, that no additional investigation will be conducted into the matter.

In an appearance on Fox & Friends Thursday morning, Kirby reiterated that the agency will not conduct an investigation. He also denied that a cover-up had occurred. He also declined to elaborate about what the video editor said about the incident.

“I can’t really talk about the details of the discussion that was had with her because it was done through our office of the legal advisor. Our focus was on this particular instance and we tried to go as far as we could knowing what happened in this particular case,” Kirby said.

While saying that additional investigation is not warranted, Kirby said that the matter is not entirely closed.

“If additional information were to come to light that could change our understanding of the events you’re darn right I would take a look at it deeper and we’ll see where it takes us,” he said.

But the State Department appears unwilling to let news agencies help bring any new information to light.

TheDC went ahread and filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Thursday for any records generated by the staffer who was ordered to edit the video. The request is necessarily vague and asks the State Department to search the records of the person that they know received the orders.

Psaki and Marie Harf, another spokeswoman who worked at the State Department at the time of the video edit, wrote on Twitter that they were not involved in the scandal.

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